Charlotte restores criminal penalties for these ordinances

Charlotte City Council voted, 7-3, Monday night to recriminalize several ordinances in the Queen City.

People can now face criminal penalties if they are caught carrying an open container of alcohol, defecating or urinating in public, and engaging in lewd acts.

Uptown residents have been asking the Charlotte City Council to consider restoring those penalties. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is in favor of this but said it would be used as a last resort.

An Uptown resident at Monday night’s meeting showed a picture of what he said was human waste near a Little Free Library.

“No child should be exposed to that when exposed in a park,” said resident Chris Connolly, who supports the measures.

Police can also criminally enforce those who solicit from the street or median strip.

The only penalty before this decision was a $50 fine after a 2021 state law decriminalized those rules.

The council did not vote to restore criminal penalties for people who are not supposed to be in parking lots, and loitering for engaging in drug activity.

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Advocates for the homeless are concerned.

“I used to hold it overnight because I had nowhere to go,” said James Lee, who opposes the penalties.

The American Civil Liberties Union is also opposed, saying criminalizing people for their basic human needs is exactly what will happen if the Charlotte City Council imposes the proposed ordinances against unhoused people.

“What we are talking about is basic civil behavior and basic civil behavior that can be enforced,” said resident LeighAnn Roughton who supported the city’s decision.

City staff installed portable toilets at 11th and College streets and are planning to install more throughout Uptown. They also intend to buy single-occupancy public toilets from a company called Portland Loo.

Each Portland Loo looks like a cage because it is purposely designed so that people do their business and get out, while also making it hard to vandalize or damage. The city hopes to put two of them on county property in Uptown. Each one costs $150,000, not including shipping, installation, or upgrades like adding an external handwashing station.

“We are talking about human beings, not animals that you commit to a cage,” said Cedric Dean in opposition to the proposed ordinances.

Staffers say the city also plans to increase outreach and resources for nonprofits that help people who are homeless.

On Tuesday, CMPD Chief Johnny Jennings posted the following statement to X:

“I support Charlotte City Council’s vote to re-criminalize six specific city ordinances that will assist CMPD’s ability to maintain public safety for our city.

“The approval equips our officers with an additional tool to enforce these ordinances effectively. We are aware that we cannot arrest our way out of quality-of-life issues that have plagued our community. We will continue first to seek voluntary cooperation through verbal warnings and issuing written citations. Arrests are considered as a last resort. The council’s vote represents a significant stride in the right direction for our department to serve our community by helping to deter future violations and address these issues affecting the citizens of Charlotte.”

The enforcement will go into effect on March 1.

Ordinances with criminal penalties restored:

Chapter 14 - Motor Vehicles and Traffic

§ Soliciting from street or median strip (Sec. 14-282)

Chapter 15 - Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions

§ Beer and wine consumption; possession of open container; disposal of containers

(Sec. 15-3)

§ Trespassing on motor vehicles (Sec. 15-8)

§ Masturbation in public (Sec. 15-82)

§ Urination and defecation on certain property prohibited (Sec. 15-83)

§ Behavior (Sec. 15-136)

(WATCH PREVIOUS: Charlotte to review ordinances after reports of urination, open container violations in Uptown)